If I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be pho. My mom throws stuff into a pot and it comes out amazing. My sister makes meticulous spice sachets and my mom thinks it tastes better than the best San Jose spots. Beef is lame; so this is my version.

Pho broth about 4 servings
2 - 3" sticks of cinnamon
10 cloves
8 black peppercorns
5 star anise stars
2 tbs. canola oil
1 large, sweet, yellow onion, quartered
10 sprigs of cilantro
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed, but whole
about a 3/4" chunk of ginger, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tbs. unrefined cane sugar
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
8 c. vegetable broth*

In a large stock pot, toast the cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and anise over high heat until your kitchen smells amazing (about 2 minutes). Add the oil, onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and bay leaf and saute until the onions and garlic begin to brown lightly. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. Be patient. Ninety minutes is even better, if you have it. You can make a "quick" version using a ground up mix of the spices (or even Chinese 5 spice powder), but it won't be as good. Once it's cooked for at least 45 minutes, salt to taste. Don't try salting it too early; the flavors need time to develop and you'll end up over-salting.

You can strain the broth, if you like, but I prefer to just fish around the spice bits to get the broth. The soft, sweet, soggy onion is one of the best parts of this soup. I can't believe people actually strain that part out. Craziness!

Don't even think about cooking your rice noodles before the broth is nearly finished. It's like pasta: the broth should wait for the noodles, never vice versa. You can heat up and flavor whatever protein you're using in the broth for a few minutes before serving. Or just eat noodles. They're the best part anyways.

Serve the broth piping hot over rice noodles and garnish with cilantro and green onion. Also have a plate of lime wedges and Thai basil handy so your guests can add additional flavor to the soup. Jalapenos and bean sprouts make nice additions, too.

Some people like to ruin the broth with hoisin and sriracha. You just spent forever slaving over this perfect, clear elixir; it's doesn't need any of that stuff. Trust me, don't do it. The broth also freezes very well, so if for some reason you can't finish 4 servings, just save it for another time.

Something neutral tasting...not the tomato-ey kind like a lot of vegetarian broths tend to be. You may also substitute water and boullion. The Better than Beef brand boillion is a little strong, so if you choose to use this, add only a little in combination with another vegetable broth.


Jen said...

wow. i was totally thinking about making pho tonight! clicked on your page, and there's a recipe. it has to be fate! amazing!

Kittee said...

this looks great. i just bought a box of pho tea bags which you throw in the broth and then strain out. i think the spices are pretty much the same. what happens if you cook the noodles in the broth?


mel said...

The noodles release a lot of starchy stuff as they cook, so it would make your broth cloudy and might even thicken it a little, depending how much you throw in.

B.A.D. said...

Man that looks amazing!
What's on top, tofu? is it breaded? It looks awesome, what did you do to it?

B.A.D. said...

Also your lime wedges are pretty.

mel said...

Thanks, BAD! I just use prepackaged fried tofu. It seems to have the best texture to absorb flavor while I heat it up in the broth.

sugarbeetthree said...

I've used this post so many times it is becoming silly. Thanks so much for these directions. I have yet another batch on the stove right now to help combat the nasty cold going around.
Thanks again, and I still think of you every time I watch Battlestar!